1. Up and around Mauao Mount Maunganui
Although no one knows the exact amount, it’s been said that one million people walk or run up or around Mauao each year, making it one of the most popular scenic walks in the country.
The 3.4-km base track offers a gentle, easy walk that takes around 45 minutes. The summit, at 232m, is well worth the climb though! If you’re fit and used to walking uphill, you’ll be fine. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a hike, you should take a water bottle and stop for a few breaks on the way up. Once you reach the top, you’ll be happy you made the effort. I like to take the Waikorire track up and the Ōruahine track down.
2. Downtown waterfront fun
With bars and restaurants on one side and family fun on the other, plus a good dose of street art, there’s always something good happening on the Tauranga waterfront.
In the playground, children can burn off some energy (Christchurch is no longer the only town in New Zealand with a Dance-O-Mat) and there’s plenty of grass and benches to sit on for some chill-out time.
What I love most about this spot are the statues of Dame Lynley Dodd’s storybook characters Hairy Maclary and friends – they are just lovely! The cutest one of all is Zachary Quack. Not once have I walked passed these fun and amazingly well-detailed statues without seeing children – and adults – with huge smiles on their faces.
3. Quirky Greerton Village
Just outside of central Tauranga, you’ll find Greerton Village. It’s a little eccentric and somewhat old-fashioned, but when you take a good look around you’ll soon see how eclectic Greerton is, too.
The cherry blossom trees are gorgeous in springtime and when they fall a little bare in winter, they get a makeover from the Greerton Guerrilla Knitters who are A-class yarn-bombers. Greerton is known as the op-shop capital of New Zealand, with no less than nine of them within walking distance of each other. And to top it all off, there's Yatton Park, a hidden gem of a park, in the outskirts of Greerton. Next to the Daisy Hardwick boardwalk in Judea, this is my favourite place to go for a run. The path here follows the Waimapu Estuary and the park is home to some of the oldest trees in Tauranga.
Tauranga has no museum, although the council has a fascinating heritage collection stored in an industrial building at the Mount. Talks about a dedicated building to give these amazing artworks and historical artefacts a permanent home have been going on for years, but so far it hasn’t happened.
But the city does have an amazing public art gallery – you’ll find it on the corner of Wharf and Willow streets. It's open seven days and entry is free. Getting around the five exhibition spaces will take up to an hour. Visitors get treated to edgy contemporary art as well as some historical exhibitions. I’ve seen the programme for the coming years and it is so exciting.
Some people who have lived in Tauranga for years have never been to The Elms and I think that’s a shame.
This is the oldest European heritage site in the Bay of Plenty, with a historic home and beautiful gardens that make you feel as if you've stepped back in time to the early nineteenth century.
There is a serenity about the place that is most welcome in my busy daily life.
Visiting the nearby Mission Cemetery, the oldest European burial ground in the Bay, located on a rocky promontory overlooking the harbour, brings a similar peaceful feeling. It's thought to be the final resting place of around 100 imperial and colonial soldiers, as well as 14 Māori warriors who died during the New Zealand Wars, but not all of the graves are marked.